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Aspen to meet with finalists for Bentley’s restaurant space

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen Co Colorado

ASPEN – City of Aspen officials have scheduled a March 15 public work session to meet with the four finalists for the city-owned Wheeler Opera House restaurant space currently occupied by Bentley’s.

Assistant City Manager Randy Ready on Monday sent a letter to the finalists for the lease. They have been identified as: CP Restaurant Group, owner of CP Burger and three other local restaurants; Rieger Restaurant Group, which owns Kenichi and Bad Billy’s; Walt Harris, owner of Ute City Bar and Grill and Syzygy restaurant; and Specialty Foods of Aspen, also known as The Cheese Shop.

Ready’s letter states that the City Council met on Feb. 22 to discuss the tenant selection process. That meeting was held in closed session with members of a selection committee that recently pared a list of nine initial applicants down to four finalists.



Council members are asking the finalists to respond by March 9 to a list of potential lease conditions, including:

• Maintaining a separate retail storefront of about 500 square feet.




• Exploring ways to present small-scale entertainment options within the restaurant from time to time, primarily in support of Wheeler programs.

• Entering into an initial lease term of no more than five years, with options to renew for additional five-year terms.

• Establishing a lease rate that includes a fixed minimum base rent along with 8 percent of gross sales to determine the total rent paid each year.

• Requiring that an affordable lunch/bar menu be available all day as an option for evening diners who would rather not order from the dinner menu.

The March 15 meeting is expected to include a short presentation on each restaurant concept, followed by a question-and-answer session with council members.

In recent weeks, discussions between city officials and potential leaseholders have been held behind closed doors. Officials have said state law allows them to conduct lease negotiations in private. But an e-mail from Ready to The Aspen Times says the March 15 meeting will be a “public work session.”

Bentley’s – which submitted a lease proposal but did not make the cut to four finalists – has been in the Wheeler space since 1984. The city will renovate the site this summer. It will be closed during construction and reopened around Dec. 1. The renovation sparked the city’s decision to open the lease up to interested restaurant operators.